Monthly Archives: April 2010

Videos

Little Brother – Curtain Call

Music

K’naan wins big in Canada

The Toronto Sun (one of the papers I rarely quote from) just ran an article highlighting K’Naan’s big win at the Junos.  The Junos, for you non-Canadian readers, is an award show much like the Grammy’s and is designed to celebrate the best in Canadian music.

It’s not without it’s own controversy, of course, since some people just dismiss the Junos as being irrelevant.  This year, I think they actually did a good job of awarding talent over album sales.  After all, how else can you justify snubbing Justin Bieber?

But yes, K’Naan ran away with the Junos this year, being named Artist of the Year.  That’s a huge achievement, and one that is absolutely well deserved.  He also one two more Junos, for his single Wavin’ Flag. Listen to it now.

If you’re looking to get a little bit more K’Naan, then check out what we have for you below.  The blog Vibes and Stuff had run a timely post linking to an hour-long interview K’Naan did for Q TV.  What a coincidence!

So here’s the full interview.  Oddly enough, it starts off with a special version of Wavin’ Flag done live .

This guy has had an insanely difficult life.  He grew up in war-torn Somalia, and managed to escape to the US and eventually to Canada.  He arrived speaking little English, but has managed to become one of the most respected Canadian artists of the decade.

Music

Coachella Fun – Want to see the Gorillaz live?

gorillaz

I feel like I spend half my time linking to Pitchfork articles, but I guess that’s because they do a damn good job at covering music.  They’ve created a big post linking to a bunch of videos from the Coachella festival.

Wired loved the festival, particularly Jay-Z’s set

But that’s not to say there weren’t highlights, the biggest I’m-texting-my-friends-about-this-right-now moment being when he brought out Beyoncé Knowles — the Bonnie to his Clyde — to sing the chorus on his track “Forever Young.” They’re a couple that eschews much, if any, attention given to their union, but for those few minutes onstage, the Coachella crowd got a small glimpse of what it’s like to see two of the biggest names in music, well, flirt. Needless to say, it went over well.

“I got goose bumps when Beyoncé came out,” Matt Johnson of indie dance-punk duo Matt & Kim said Saturday, to which his band mate Kim Schifino replied, “See? Going in [I was thinking], ‘I bet 10 bucks he brings out Beyoncé.’”

Read More http://www.wired.com/underwire/2010/04/coachella-2/#ixzz0lhVaA65v

Personally, I was a fan of watching the Gorillaz performance with De La Soul (via video of course since I couldn’t be there for real.)  Watch that below.

Featured Politics

Badu’s Window Seat causes a storm

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A couple of weeks ago we posted about Erykah Badu’s new album and linked to her newest video.  The video, for a track called Window Seat was a teeny bit more controversial than I expected.

In the video, Badu walks through downtown Dallas and strips her clothes off in slow motion.  Now, most people would figure that this was either a) Fake and done on a soundstage somewhere or b) Staffed with extras and cleared with the locals.  It was neither.

Badu just guerilla filmed this video, strolling through Dallas while stripping in public and eventually collapsing at the scene of JFK’s assassination.  A political statement, to be sure.

But let’s go through this step by step.  Start with the video itself:

Why do it at all?

NPR’s The Two Way writes that:

Badu, a Dallas native, tells the Morning News that Dealey Plaza was chosen intentionally because the video — for her song Window Seat — is about “the character assassination one would go through after showing his or her self completely.”

This is entirely possible, but it’s also a bit far-fetched in my mind.  Character assassination has definitely been occurring after this video, with lots of accusations and questions about why Badu would do such a thing.

The Nudity

This is probably the biggest thing on people’s minds.  Why would she get naked?  The Police apparently have begun an investigation after receiving complaints, and it’s possible that Badu will wind up with a fine.  Considering the video clearly shows kids in the immediate area, I understand why parents were concerned.  Nudity is not always a big deal, and some are making the argument that nudity has earned itself a bad rap.

NPR’s Tell Me More quotes TheRoot.com

And then there’s this interesting take from our friends at TheRoot.com, written by Natalie Hopkinson.

And here’s a perspective from one of our own, Tell Me More producer Jasmine Garsd:

“I think the issue here is that she’s chilling naked in a non-sexual way. People are so used to seeing over-sexualized, exploited women on TV so people freak out when they see a woman just naked, relaxing, with cellulite, some tummy (she looks great though) — ESPECIALLY a woman of color. You are supposed to be writhing next to 50 Cent all oiled up. You are supposed to be oversexed, having Nelly swipe a credit card in your butt. You are not supposed to just be naked, walking. It’s too humanizing. And even if you are not a woman of color, you are supposed to be Britney writhing half naked with a snake promising you are a virgin. How is this any less sexual than Beyonce’s new video with Gaga, or any rap video? If anything, it’s less exploitative.“

This is definitely an interesting take on the issue.  Part of me honestly does agree that it’s a bit less exploitative simply because it doesn’t sexualize the nudity.  Badu’s always been a bit unpredictable and also a bit of an exhibitionist.  At the same time, she’s not necessarily known as someone who uses her sex as a way to sell her albums in a way that many stars do today.  In this video, despite her being nude, you don’t get the sense that she’s sexing things up.

Instead, you get the feeling that she’s very comfortable in her own skin.  I honestly think I wouldn’t be nearly as intrigued by this video had it not been for the JFK link.

The JFK Link

Now, Badu quickly went on the defensive after accusations that she was disrespecting JFK.  On the Wanda Sykes Show, Badu made her passionate defence.  Pitchfork quotes her:

Talking to Sykes, Badu defended the video, claiming “that’s what performance art is about… I think my point was grossly misunderstood all over the United States of America.” She also said that she wasn’t doing it to disrespect Kennedy’s memory, calling him “one of my heroes” and “a revolutionary, a rebel.” She goes on to say that Kennedy was “not afraid to butt heads with America, and I was not afraid to show America my butt naked truth.”

You can see the video of her interview with Sykes on a BET blog here.

Like I was saying, I don’t think the video concerns me for anything except the faux shooting.  I’m not easily scandalized, and video otherwise is fine.  I get why people are concerned, but Badu is no stranger to controversy so I don’t think it’s unexpected.  After listening to her interview with Wanda Sykes, you can hear she genuinely does respect JFK and that she probably wasn’t trying to disrespect him.  Even so, I think the video would have been a legitimate hit and a more subtle message if she had done this minus the gunshot/collapse at the end.  Just my two cents.

I wonder if ?uestlove had any idea what he was getting himself into when he collaborated with her for this track.

Awareness Featured Music

R.I.P Guru

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A little over a month ago, we reported that Guru had slipped into a coma.  This awful news was followed up positively when AllHipHop claimed they had a source saying that Guru had successful surgery and was expected to make a full recovery.

Unfortunately that was not true.  Apparently, Guru had been suffering from cancer for some time, and never made it out of the hospital.  After two months, he passed away.

This is an unimaginable loss for hip hop.  Guru was an inspiration to many and made some of the most fundamental hip hop tracks of all time.  Him and Premier were, in my opinion, some of the biggest influences on why I got into hip hop.  To lose Guru is a tragedy.

And yet, even something like this couldn’t happen simply.  Guru’s business partner Solar has released a statement and a letter purportedly written by Guru.  The statement reads:

“The world has lost one of the best MCs and hip-hop icons of all-time – my loyal best friend, partner, and brother, Guru. Guru has been battling cancer for well over a year and has lost his battle. This is a matter that Guru wanted private until he could beat it, but tragically, this did not happen. The cancer took him. Now the world has lost a great man and a true genius.”

So far, that seems okay.  It’s grieving and sad, but pays tribute.  However, AllHipHop is also reporting that there may be a darker side to things.

Solar went on to tend to the rapper as he fell ill, seemingly controlling the flow of information and access to Guru. Many of his family members complained that they were denied their right to see him.

That is a horrifying proposition, and one I hope is not true or at least was medically necessary.  I couldn’t imagine being denied my right to see a loved one in their last days.  For Solar’s sake, I hope this was exaggerated.

The letter Solar released a letter that he says was written by Guru has raised a considerable amount of controversy.  Read the text below:

I, Guru, am writing this letter to my fans, friends and loved ones around the world. I have had a long battle with cancer and have succumbed to the disease. I have suffered with this illness for over a year. I have exhausted all medical options.


I have a non-profit organization called Each One Counts dedicated to carrying on my charitable work on behalf of abused and disadvantaged children from around the world and also to educate and research a cure for this terrible disease that took my life. I write this with tears in my eyes, not of sorrow but of joy for what a wonderful life I have enjoyed and how many great people I have had the pleasure of meeting.

My loyal best friend, partner and brother, Solar, has been at my side through it all and has been made my health proxy by myself on all matters relating to myself. He has been with me by my side on my many hospital stays, operations, doctors visits and stayed with me at my home and cared for me when I could not care for myself. Solar and his family is my family and I love them dearly and I expect my family, friends, and fans to respect that, regardless to anybody’s feelings on the matter. It is my wish that counts. This being said I am survived by the love of my life, my sun KC, who I trust will be looked after by Solar and his family as their own. Any awards or tributes should be accepted, organized approved by Solar on behalf myself and my son until he is of age to except on his own.

I do not wish my ex-DJ to have anything to do with my name likeness, events tributes etc. connected in anyway to my situation including any use of my name or circumstance for any reason and I have instructed my lawyers to enforce this. I had nothing to do with him in life for over 7 years and want nothing to do with him in death. Solar has my life story and is well informed on my family situation, as well as the real reason for separating from my ex-DJ. As the sole founder of GangStarr, I am very proud of what GangStarr has meant to the music world and fans. I equally am proud of my Jazzmatazz series and as the father of Hip-Hop/Jazz. I am most proud of my leadership and pioneering efforts on Jazzmatazz 4 for reinvigorating the Hip-Hop/Jazz genre in a time when music quality has reached an all time low. Solar and I have toured in places that I have never been before with GangStarr or Jazzmatatazz and we gained a reputation for being the best on the planet at Hip-Hop/Jazz, as well as the biggest and most influential Hip-Hop/Jazz record with Jazzmatazz 4 of the decade to now. The work I have done with Solar represents a legacy far beyond its time. And we as a team were not afraid to push the envelope. To me this is what true artists do! As men of honor we stood tall in the face of small mindedness, greed, and ignorance. As we fought for music and integrity at the cost of not earning millions and for this I will always be happy and proud, and would like to thank the million fans who have seen us perform over the years from all over the world. The work I have done with Solar represents a legacy far beyond its time and is my most creative and experimental to date. I hope that our music will receive the attention it deserves as it is some of the best work I have done and represents some of the best years of my life.

When I read this, I was honestly caught off guard.  While I knew Guru and Premier hadn’t exactly been hanging out all the time, I never thought things had gone this far.  Besides, it doesn’t exactly seem like something someone would write on their deathbed.  I don’t see why, now, Guru would want to castigate Prem so publicly after having been silent.  It just…seems weird.

Twitter is aflame with allegations of forgery.  Premier’s leading the charge.

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But he’s not the only one.  ?uestlove’s suspicious as well.

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Other users seem to be feeling the same way, considering this tweet by MissInfo has been retweeted by more than 20 others.

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It’s a horrific way to imagine the end of your life.  Guru’s passing should be celebrated in the sense that we should mourn his passing but be ever so proud of his achievements and his contributions to hip hop.  Between Jazzmatazz and Gang Starr, Guru was a tremendous influence and a talented wordsmith and artist.

To use his passing for personal gain, or to mar his passing with accusations does him a disservice.  I want the truth to come out, but more importantly I want his family to know that at the minimum, I care that he passed.  That he meant something to me, although I never met him.

R.I.P Guru.  Here’s a track of you pouring your heart out at the birth of your son.

Geek

Can you be a nerd and still love hip hop?

Granted this is not a question most people would think about.  And I guess it also must be acknowledged that since you’re reading this post on the internet, you’ve got a little bit of geek in you.  Gizmodo  (the gadget blog with a lack of hip hop credentials) has posted an interview with RZA.

RZA, the techno-guru of the Wu-Tang Clan, is a hell of a talented producer.  He did a whole electronic concept album as Bobby Digital that was a definite departure from his previous work.   In fact, back in May of 2008 we wrote about his intent to resurrect Bobby Digital for a new album.

The interview is in support of his new book, The Tao of Wu. It’s interesting that RZA so easily admits to being a geek, and claims to be one of the first hip hop geeks willing to admit it.  I mean, looking at the tough and macho attitude the Wu exudes, you wouldn’t guess.  But looking deeper, you have a bunch of dudes messing with old Kung Fu movies and RZA playing with tech to build beats for some of the most fundamental hip hop tracks of all time.

Check out the interview below.

[Source:True/Slant via BoingBoing] via Gizmodo]

Music

Reflection Eternal reunites, tours.

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YES!  I’m terribly excited at Pitchfork’s news that Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek, for those who don’t know) is reuniting and going on tour.  While I have the utmost respect for Kweli, I have to agree with Pitchfork’s words when they say:

In Hi-Tek, Kweli had a partner whose burbling, organic tracks perfectly complimented his thoughtful introspection and wordy, off-beat rhyme schemes. The result was arguably the most rewarding full-length of Kweli’s career; it still holds up pretty well today.

The tour dates are listed here. They’re all over the US (sadly, not in Canada), but hopefully you can find a date near you.  And below is Strangers, a track off the upcoming album.

Music

Quincy Jones teams up with Akon

Fullscreen capture 18042010 20237 AM It’s one of the most unanticipated collaborations of 2010, the great Quincy Jones has decided to make a track with Akon.  Titled Strawberry Letter 23, the track has a surprisingly beautiful video.  Full of vibrant colours and a nicely funky beat, it’s actually tolerable.

I still have no love for Akon, but I have to admit that it makes me like him more to know that he’s got enough taste to do a track with QJ.  I mean, if I was an artist and Quincy called me up, I would leap at the chance.

Check out the video below.

Art

Stop Motion Graffiti

A stop-motion video about graffiti from Israel.  Not bad.

Featured

Harmonize THIS: King Gordon, Queen Carole and Why John Adams was Right

B.C. Legislature

Ed.: In this post, new 4080 contributor James Roy critiques a recent Tyee piece praising British Columbia’s system of government.

By James Roy

Alan Durning’s admiration of British Columbia’s political system warrants a typically Canadian response: thank you very much; but you’re wrong and here’s why.

He picks the best parts of the parliamentary (not our parliamentary, but the parliamentary) system and contrasts them to the worst aspects of the American system.  Curiously, he focused on the relatively popular Carbon Tax as opposed to the incredibly unpopular HST to conclude British Columbia’s government works better than its American counterpart.

Perhaps the reason Durning thinks our system works so much faster than his is because in British Columbia, the government need not concern itself with such trivial little frivolities as public opinion and democratic legitimacy.  It can simply force its agenda through and to hell with all opposed.  In the United States, yes, change often comes slow.  But change there is often more enduring.  Because of John Adams and the other Founders insistence on a separation of powers between the various branches of government, the American system demands that support for change has the essential breadth and depth of support from across the electorate.  Opponents of the recent healthcare bill must assemble as much public support to repeal it as proponents did to pass it.

There are several problems with American government.  The fundamental corruption of their campaign finance system is one (though I should blush as a British Columbian, because ours is also abysmally under-regulated).  The partisan gerrymandering of their federal and state legislative electoral districts is also a devastating flaw.

Again, I should temper my criticism.  American electoral districts at least have nearly equal populations, while British Columbia’s electoral map is slanted against the major population centres.  If you live in Vancouver in the 2013 provincial election, you’d be wise to vote two or three times.  The first time to cast your actual ballot, and once or twice more to give your vote as much power as a resident of Prince Rupert or Fort Nelson—ridings with as little as one-third the population of the average Vancouver constituency.

Another serious problem is the Senate filibuster.  Were it not for the filibuster, the healthcare reform bill likely would have passed one year ago and it would have probably more closely resembled a single-payer or public option model.

Still another problem in American politics is that they have two dominant parties.  Our multiparty system better reflects the political opinions and ideological cleavages of our society than theirs.

But the main problem with American politics at this moment does not spring from their system of government.  The main problem is that a fanatical lunatic fringe is systematically infiltrating the Republican Party, and that is having a consequential effect on governing.  Their problem isn’t John Adams; it’s Glenn Beck.

In 2009, British Columbians went to the polls, re-electing Premier Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals with 49 seats to 35 for the opposition New Democrats and one for independent Vicki Huntington in Delta South.  So goes the official version.

Here’s what really happened.

In an election with the lowest voter turnout (barely 50%) in British Columbia history, British Columbians elected 85 MLAs:  Premier Gordon Campbell, Leader of the Opposition Carole James, independent MLA Vicki Huntington and 82 troglodytic desk-thumping zombies.

Sounds harsh?  Ponder this: over the next month or so of parliamentary “debate” over the HST, how many Liberals do you seriously believe the NDP will be able to flip?  Zero.  Conversely, how many New Democrats will Colin Hansen be able to convince to support the HST?  None.  After all the shouting and screaming and re-finishing of well-pounded desktops, not a single mind will have been changed nor a single vote altered.

In the United States, that is simply unheard of.  Sustained public debate actually does change minds (and votes).  The passing of the recent health care reform bill is a prime example.  There was a great deal of debate, plenty of amendments and much compromise.  The result?  America has a new healthcare system.

It is important to look at what did not happen. What you did not see during the healthcare debate was an arrogant President Obama, confident that he would have the unconditional and unwavering support of every single Democratic Senator and Representative.  Just the opposite.  He flew all over the country aggressively campaigning, encouraging voters to tell their Senator and Representative to vote for reform.

What has Gordon Campbell done to “sell” the HST to BC Liberals?  His office has issued a couple of press releases and posted a lovely PowerPoint presentation on the Ministry of Finance’s website.  He could stay in bed for the next month and BC Liberals will vote according to his command on every single amendment, sub-amendment and procedural motion surrounding the HST bill.

What happened to those 34 Democrats who opposed President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid?  Were they kicked out of the party?  Stripped of any committee responsibilities?  Told they cannot run as Democrats in the next election?  Nope.  They were not punished for voting against their Party’s leadership.

In British Columbia, that literally would have been the last vote those representatives would have cast as party members.  They would have been expelled from their party and stripped of any committee responsibilities.

America elects representatives.  Men and women who need little reminder that they may be members of a party, their constituents elected them.

British Columbia elects trained seals.  We keep learning the sad truth that while we may elect our local MLAs, each MLA represents the Party in their district, and not their district in Victoria.

What explains this difference?  Party discipline.  Strict, unwavering, deluded, insane party discipline.  British Columbia has it.  America does not.  In the United States, the public actually has a realistic chance to change the votes of many elected officials, even in the face of a sustained campaign by political leaders.  In British Columbia, the public has exactly zero chance of doing so due to the insane degree of blindly-follow-the-leader mentality in our political system.

Our political system has perverted the original British ideal of party discipline (“most of the Party, most of the time”) to an insane degree.  And it is the primary reason our political system is in such a mess.

Glen Clark, Bill Vander Zalm and Brian Mulroney had, in the last months or years of their terms, a sustained public approval rating that was somewhere between herpes and personal injury lawyers.  Yet, with every single bill they introduced, they could count on the unanimous support of every representative of their respective parties.  Today, Gordon Campbell has a personal approval rating similar to that of George W. Bush at his lowest.  In 2008, many Republicans ran from the Bush record and congressional candidates refused to be photographed with him.  In 2010, Gordon Campbell reigns supreme as the Sun King of British Columbia politics.  And we are the ones with the more responsible and accountable political system?

Why is party discipline so strong in British Columbia and so weak in the United States?  It all springs from how the parties nominate their candidates for elected office. State and federal laws regulate the American system of primary elections—where all party members in a region vote to decide who will get the party’s nomination for each elected office.  Barack Obama has absolutely no role to play in deciding who gets the Democratic Party nomination for Representative in Washington State’s 2nd Congressional District — Seattle’s Democrats do.

In British Columbia, aside from some insignificant (and largely ineffective) financial disclosure requirements, political parties are essentially treated as private social clubs who can make and break their own rules as they see fit.  Moreover, by provincial law, a party’s candidate cannot get the party’s nomination unless two “principal officers” (basically, the Party Leader and one of his deputies) agree.  Our system does not require parties to hold nomination elections to determine the official candidate, and where parties choose to do so, the party leadership is free to ignore the results and choose someone else.

In British Columbia, all BC Liberal candidates owe their nomination to Gordon Campbell and all NDP candidates owe their nomination to Carole James.  The plain fact is: local party members (and the local electorate) are far less important.  And that, more than anything else, explains why our party discipline is ridiculously strict.

I could really go for some old-fashioned checks and balances right now.

With nearly eight in ten British Columbians steadfast in their fierce opposition to the HST, our system can hardly be described as accountable.  I think I can safely speak for a majority of this province when I say unequivocally, that I would be thrilled if we had a British Columbia Senate right now.

Specifically, a Senate comprised of Senators apportioned differently than our MLAs (either at large, on a regional basis or some hybrid) elected under a different (more proportional) electoral system, serving longer (staggered and limited) terms and most importantly—with members ultimately not responsible to Gordon Campbell and Carole James, but to their constituents.

A Senate that can restrain wild policy swings, veto stunningly unpopular bills, and demand a referendum before it agrees to pass a government bill that was ruled out during an election campaign but suddenly was very much in vogue mere weeks after.